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The City Journals

Murray tutor offers points for students’ success

Feb 22, 2021 09:50AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray High School senior Emily studies for the ACT during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy Jamie Cheney)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Staying caught up on their classwork, being motivated enough to pass their classes, and managing and sticking to schedules. If this sounds familiar to you and your student, Jamie Cheney of Totally Tutoring says you are not alone.

“I would advise parents to help their students maintain a structured school schedule at home,” Cheney said. “Create a schedule that works for your students and help them stick to it. My ACT students who have a structured study time each week, where they can focus on taking ACT practice tests, are continually improving.” 

When the pandemic hit, Cheney’s business slowed dramatically; Totally Tutoring lost 92% of its business. Before the pandemic, they were tutoring roughly 200 students per week. Her company specializes in ACT preparation. The ACT was canceled in March 2020, and students could not take the ACT for several months. In April 2020, the ACT announced they would start offering testing in June and July. 

According to Cheney, “There are so many challenges for students during the pandemic. Online learning will never be as personable or effective for many students. Students who have working parents may struggle without the support and structure that school gives them. Most students—mine included—learn better from someone who is not their parent. Learning online takes a lot of self-motivation and determination.”

Cheney’s tutors not only engaged in preparing students for the ACT but also tutored in math and physics. Prior to the pandemic, they met in person, conducting one- to two-hour sessions, and they didn’t have any online students. Shifting to online learning meant adapting proven tutoring methodologies.

“I had to gauge if my students were learning and truly understanding the concepts through the computer screen rather than reading their body language. It was also interesting to see how many math concepts they didn’t know or how many math skills they had lost during those first few months of the pandemic,” Cheney said.

High school seniors who had planned on taking the ACT for scholarships and college applications could not test for several months in 2020. Testing centers closed with short notice, and test dates have been canceled for consecutive months. The ACT is something that most students need to take multiple times. Many students have only been able to take the ACT once, if they are lucky. Some students and their families have had to travel hours, even going to another state, to access an open testing site.

“Many high school students have expressed how mentally draining and emotional online school is. Students feel especially sad they are missing out on school dances, sports and events,” Cheney said. “Students who have art classes such as ceramics, photography and choir have said how challenging online learning is for these classes. They miss the social opportunities and hands-on learning that school affords.”

Specifically, Cheney states that it comes down to one word determining a child’s success in school: “Resiliency. These students can adapt and change. They are well versed in technology. They keep going even when it gets hard,” Cheney said. 

Parents can do specific things, according to Cheney, that play a role in their student’s success in the era of pandemic learning.

“Help your student create a study plan and a study schedule and help them stick to it. Many parents cannot teach their children math or English, as it relates to school standards, but parents can help their children succeed.

“By creating a schedule and plan together, parents can ensure their student is completing assignments and gauge where their students may need extra help and support. Finding out what areas (subjects) your student is struggling in early on (and not the last two weeks of the term) will allow you to chat with their teachers or hire a tutor sooner rather than later.”